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Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

May 6, 2014
The Open Wound Called Salazar
By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

Forty four years ago, a journalist by the name of Ruben Salazar was killed by an LA County Sheriff’s deputy, Thomas Wilson. Seems like a long time to look back, yet, his death in 1970 will forever remain an open wound. The recently aired PBS documentary, Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle, while educational for those who were not around in 1970, does little to heal that wound.

Prior to watching the documentary, I posted four entries on the documentary’s website or blog (http://rubensalazarpbs.org/blog/). Now that I watched it, here is a fifth entry.

After writing about Salazar for some 44 years, I repeat, what is there left to write that hasn’t already been written? In watching the documentary, I felt the same way. Having lived through the era, and as someone who teaches the life and works of Salazar, I walked away feeling that the documentary did not actually probe into his death, but that it actually took a step backwards in promoting the law enforcement and mainstream narrative of the events of that era.

There were two major things that were wrong.

During that era, law enforcement, the LA Sheriff’s Department in particular, created the narrative that the protests of that day, Aug. 29, 1970, were primarily the work of outside agitators. Secondarily, they told the story, via the media, that it was the rally goers who became unruly and attacked the Sheriff’s deputies, and thus, law enforcement had no choice and was entitled to go in and restore order via billy club and tear gas justice.

The documentary, in effect, inexplicably and unnecessarily towed that line. In towing that line, it has the feel of “official narrative” – it has the feel of a Sheriff’s Department press release as opposed to an eyewitness account, or minimally, a critical account.

Secondly, after 44 years, the public was entitled to a full probe of the events of Aug. 29, 1970. If law enforcement and government refused to fully probe or make public its findings regarding the circumstances behind Salazar’s death, then that job fell to the media, in this case, the documentary. And probe it did, but not deep enough; it appeared to be of secondary import. Or as previously stated, it had the feel of another official Sheriff’s Department press release.

The year 1970 was part of en era in which the government seemingly directed all its resources to destroy all the progressive movements at the time. This included the Chicano Movement. The most well known coordinated effort was the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (COLINTENPRO). Perhaps the deeper probe took place by the filmmaker, but in the documentary, nary a mention of COLINTENPRO, the CIA or military intelligence or any other law enforcement program or agency that illegally and violently disrupted or attempted to destroy these movements, other than the Sheriff's Department and a secret probe by the Department of Justice that found no prosecutable crimes, but that was nonetheless kept away from the public for more than four decades.

What we are left with by way of the documentary was a biography of Salazar, his journalism, a distortion of Aug 29, 1970, and the lack of a deeper probe into his death. And yet, realistically, if an agency was indeed responsible for the assassination of Salazar, it is highly unlikely that it would have placed the directive in writing and that the memo would survive to this day.

So the sum total of the documentary is that it does little to answer the pivotal question that most of us will to continue to ask, was he assassinated, and if so, by whom? Why does the question persist? The 44-year secrecy is one reason, but just as importantly, people still remember that his body was not removed from the Silver Dollar for at least three hours after he had been shot. And people can call it conspiracy theory if they wish, but it is legitimate to ask why his head was intact if he was killed by a 9-inch armor-piercing tear-gas projectile.

Our gut gives us answers and our memory also compels us to keep probing and asking questions. If anything, we can thank the filmmaker, Phillip Rodriguez, for keeping the story alive.

Rodriguez, a life-long journalist/columnist, won the 1986 Journalist of the Year Award from the California Chicano News Media Association in 1986 for his defense of the First Amendment, stemming from an incident in which he photographed the brutal beating of a young Mexican man in 1979. Today, he is an assistant professor at the University of Arizona and was the recent winner of the American Educational Research Association’s Ella Baker-Septima Clark Human Rights Award for his defense of Ethnic Studies. He can be reached at: XColumn@gmail.com


Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

April 29, 2014
My Whittier Blvd. Connection
By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

In my first entry, I mentioned that I have always felt a connection with Ruben Salazar because I was nearly killed by Sheriff’s deputies on Whittier Blvd., a few streets down from where he was killed.

To me, I always considered the Silver Dollar Café a place of pilgrimage. It was located across the street from Sounds of Music record store, which itself had its own fame among the lowrider scene. For years, the Silver Dollar changed ownership and transformed from café to bar to restaurant, etc. For years, a theatrical play on the death of Salazar was reenacted there. Last time I went by in 2013, I believe it is now a jewelry store… and they nowadays advertise that they sell “silver” there. Perhaps it is a reminder or a tenuous connection at best to the past. Or maybe the owner is completely oblivious. It should be a museum. It is a crime that it isn’t. It should at least be on the national register of historic places.

A few blocks down the boulevard, heading toward downtown L.A., is McDonnell street. There on that corner is where I was almost killed in 1979. Today, a few yards from McDonnell, in between this street and Arizona, there is an arch there, signaling the entrance to the Whittier Blvd shopping district. I always joke and tell people that they placed the arch there in my honor.

Joking aside, I have written and rewritten many times about what happened to me. And I don’t write about the dramatic details anymore. Through the years, many people have conflated what happened to me with the riots of Aug. 29, 1970. As mentioned, what happened to me took place nine years later. I always felt guilty because when I was almost killed, it was not part of a political action, but part of cruising and the lowrider scene, etc. Not that it was minor; 538 people were arrested that weekend and after that, Whittier Blvd has been closed to cruising ever since.

Only until about 30 years later did I recognize what happened to me in political terms. When I photographed that guy being beaten… it was a political act because I had already left because I did not want to be next. I did not want to be another casualty. It became political when after leaving, I intentionally returned to photograph him being beaten. While that was hapening, he was screaming about God… but by the time I left, there was an eerie silence everywhere as he was no longer screaming. Only thuds from the riot sticks to his body could be heard, echoing against the night air and the store walls.

That is why I returned. My conscience would not permit me to leave. There were about 100 members of the Selective Enforcement Bureau of the L.A. Sheriff’s Department all along the 1-mile section of Whittier Blvd that where the cruising would take place every weekend. The red and blue lights were everywhere. I was conscious of that as he was being beaten by some 10-12 deputies. I returned to photograph, knowing full well I would probably be arrested or beaten or both… or even possibly be killed. But I was compelled to return. Return I did and I did photograph the Sheriffs deputies beating on him. The last photograph I took was of a deputy pointing at me.

Suffice to say that I got my skull cracked, I was hospitalized and I was charged with several criminal counts, including: Assault and Battery on 4 deputies. And yes, the “weapon” was the camera.

It took nine months before my charges were dropped (I was detained or arrested about 60 times in those nine months) and then I filed a lawsuit against the deputies who claimed I tried to kill them. It was a long wait, but in 1986, after a 36-day trial, which included 10 days of deliberation, I won the lawsuit. It was near miraculous for two reasons; no one wins in court against law enforcement, but on the rarest occasions that it does happen, the victory goes to the spouse or parents. In my case, I won… and I’m alive.

Today, I teach at the University of Arizona… and there, I teach Salazar. I teach more than Salazar, but when I teach either “The History of Red-Brown Journalism” (a class I created , which has a special collections at the UA Library) or “the History of the Chicano Movement,” I teach primarily the journalism of Salazar, but also, his death.

Akin to this essay, I don’t really teach about my trials, in part because it is awkward to do so. I can’t actually compare my work or situation to Salazar, though as I have noted, for me at least, I do see a connection. I know I pursued the path of a journalist/columnist because of his death and I do know that my case was historic because it resulted in victory (thanks to my witnesses and my attorney, Antonio Rodriguez). I won both my trials, but I always know there should have been a 3rd trial. The 4 deputies should have had to face criminal charges themselves. They didn’t and of course, not one of them ever had to serve time behind this. In fact, what surfaced in court is that they all had subsequently been promoted.

I could write more… or speak in details about this in public more, but I no longer do this because I did live with post-traumatic stress disorder for the longest time (due to the traumatic brain injury). But over the years, I have learned that I can speak about what happened to me, without having to relive that nightmare and without getting into a trance, by giving specific details. Justice for me over the years has been the opportunity to fight on behalf of others – too numerous to mention – of peoples and communities that continue to live these traumas.

We should not forget that Salazar did write about police abuse throughout his career.

Here, suffice to say that the Salazar documentary is long overdue. I would say at least he is finally getting some justice. But a documentary is not the same as justice. But minimally, it will give millions of people around the country an opportunity to learn about this great journalist.

In speaking to his daughters through the years, I know they have always felt – and continue to feel – that it is not enough to honor their father. Justice for them is to answer once and for all whether their father was in fact assassinated or not.

Perhaps this documentary is taking us one step closer to answering that question.

Rodriguez, a life-long journalist/columnist, won the 1986 Journalist of the Year Award from the California Chicano News Media Association in 1986 for his defense of the First Amendment, stemming from an incident in which he photographed the brutal beating of a young Mexican man in 1979. Today, he is an assistant professor at the University of Arizona and was the recent winner of the American Educational Research Association’s Ella Baker-Septima Clark Human Rights Award for his defense of Ethnic Studies. He can be reached at: XColumn@gmail.com


Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

April 23, 2014
Salazar: Assassination or Accident?
By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

For years, many people had doubts regarding the death of Salazar. One of the questions is whether he was actually assassinated by members of the Sheriff’s Department, as opposed to his death being a horrible accident. However, a larger question many of us asked during those initial years was whether he may have been assassinated by yet a larger government plot? It is not that we were into conspiracy theories, but rather, it is that he wouldn't have been the first to have been taken out in such a manner.

And yet, many of us were in fact treated as conspiracy theorists for asking basic questions. With a failure to indict anyone, many of us continued to ask for further investigations, but to no avail. As far as the legal establishment was concerned, his case was closed.

Most of us asked this question so many times – without a satisfactory answer – that perhaps we finally stopped asking because we were indeed treated as conspiracy theorists akin to people looking for bigfoot, UFOs or Elvis.

As a writer/columnist, throughout the years, I have written about Salazar numerous times. But what is left to write that hasn't already been written before? For many years, many of us concentrated on his death. And again, due to lack of forthrightness on the matter, we had to move on. For many years thereafter, I began to actually examine his work as a journalist with the El Paso Herald Post and then his work as a journalist and columnist with the L.A. Times and finally, his work as news director at KMEX.

He truly was an award-winning journalist ahead of his time, particularly his work as a journalist at the LA Times in the early 1960s. In a 1963 series on the Mexican American community, his work was so cutting edge, with a focus on civil rights, that it was not equaled for more than 20 years until a team of Latino journalists were assigned to do similar work, resulting in the Pulitzer Prize in the 1980s.

A 1994 book, Border Correspondent, edited by Mario Garcia, chronicles Salazar’s amazing journalism.

And yet, after now focusing on his historic writings for a generation, the question always comes back; was he targeted and eliminated?

In 1976 or thereabouts, my girlfriend (at the time) and I were passed along a shocking story by someone claiming to be retired ex-military intelligence about the death of Salazar. He claimed that Salazar was actually assassinated by a military intelligence officer with a gun, not the projectile shot by the Sheriff’s deputies. When he relayed us the story, we considered it not only wild, but implausible and untrue. It was so bizarre and definitely in line with conspiracy theories, that I never passed it along to anyone else until the 1994 book came out. I passed the story along to Mario Garcia, editor of the Border Correspondent book.

When Garcia was touring his book in El Paso, I relayed to him this story...telling him that I had never told anyone else about it because I thought it was both whack and indeed, “conspiracy theory” laden. So then why did I even bother telling Garcia? From what I remember, it was because during his talk, he mentioned that Raul Ruiz, the La Raza Magazine photographer who took the celebrated photos of the Sheriff’s deputies outside of the Silver Dollar Café, had never believed that Salazar had been killed by the projectile.

After giving Garcia more details about the conversation, which had taken place at a swap meet in Southern California, I decided I needed to talk to Ruiz. After tracking him down, he confirmed that he had never believed that Salazar had been killed by the projectile. He said that if he had been killed by an armor-piercing projectile, his head would have been blown off. So that’s when I elaborated the rest of the story to Ruiz by the guy who claimed to be ex-army intelligence.

When he told me the story, he was agitated. We had a table at the swap meet with issues of La Gente Newspaper from UCLA. And we also had La Gente T-Shirts. He must have thought we were important because he proceeded to tell us that we actually didn’t know anything about what we were talking about… but more important than that, he decided we needed to hear his opinions on the Chicano Movement. Initially, he was talking in general, but eventually, he zeroed in on the death of Salazar.

He said the whole story regarding the projectile was an elaborate ploy...that it was subterfuge...that his death indeed had been an assassination plot, not by the Sheriff’s Department, the FBI or the CIA, but rather, by military intelligence. As I rolled my eyes, he asked me: “Did you see his head at the funeral?”

“I didn’t attend, but I did see it on television or photos,” I replied.

“If he had been shot by that projectile, his head would have ben blown off,” he said. But if you saw the photos, you can see that his face is intact, his head is intact.” (That part is true).

He said what had actually happened is that military intelligence had been tracking Salazar’s movements throughout that day. When he slipped into the Silver Dollar Café, a few agents also went inside. When the projectile was fired, amid all the gas and confusion, one agent, directly behind him, came forward and shot Salazar to the back of his head with his gun.

Of course, when this guy who claimed to be ex-military intelligence told us this, we could hardly contain our laughter. I think I patted him on the back and just shook my head. The story was so incredulous that that was the reason I never passed it along to anyone else...until I spoke to Garcia and Ruiz.

Garcia didn’t have a lot to say on this topic, but he did tell me to talk to Ruiz. I did and again, he relayed that he had never accepted the story of Salazar dying as a result of the projectile.

Forty-some years later, the issue is not whether I believe the guy who claimed to be ex-military intelligence...that Salazar was indeed assassinated...but rather, that for me, that is one story that forms my memory about Salazar and that era. We all have our memories and our own ways of remembering.

The filmmaker obtained files from the LA Sheriff’s Department. Perhaps the search should be broader...though even if that story were plausible, it would hardly be believable that incriminating files from the military would exist till this day.

Rodriguez, a life-long journalist/columnist, won the 1986 Journalist of the Year Award from the California Chicano News Media Association in 1986 for his defense of the First Amendment, stemming from an incident in which he photographed the brutal beating of a young Mexican man in 1979. Today, he is an assistant professor at the University of Arizona and was the recent winner of the American Educational Research Association’s Ella Baker-Septima Clark Human Rights Award for his defense of Ethnic Studies. He can be reached at: XColumn@gmail.com


Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

April 14, 2014
Salazar, Justice, and “The Price of a Mexican”
By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

The Inquest into the death of Ruben Salazar was the bookend to his death, or assassination if you will. In one sense, it was even more dramatic. It was about the U.S. judicial system and “the price of a Mexican.”

That a Mexican had been killed was not the news. It was that he was high-profile, he was a writer – a journalist – and in effect, a symbol. Although he was not actually part of the Chicano civil rights movement, he covered it and the importance of his coverage is that he did it both, for the mainstream and for the Spanish-speaking community of Southern California. Because of the importance of his coverage, he in effect, was Cesar Chavez with a pen. He was Corky Gonzalez, with a tie. No, he was not a revolutionary, but he brought the Chicano Movement to peoples’ doorstep, every day..

When the inquest took place, I had just entered the 10th grade. I lived about 10 blocks from my high school. I lived in East L.A. but I went to school in Montebello ...and going to school there was like crossing a huge cultural divide. About half of the high school was Mexican American...and about half of those were like me, who lived in East LA, but the school borders sucked us into this other reality that seemed as far removed from East LA as was Beverly Hills.

I remember running home every day to catch the Inquest, which was televised every day for 16 days. Every day, it started at 3 pm, so everyday I missed a few minutes. Everything about it had a surreal aspect to it. Its primary theme was “outside agitators” as opposed to the actual death of Salazar. It did not seem to be a serious Inquest, but a means for the Sheriff’s Department to discredit the moratorium, the movement, and thereby, the credibility of Salazar. For most of us, it was but a show trial. The verdict, or rather, the finding, was not unexpected. As a result, no one was ever charged in relationship with Salazar’s death.

Memories fade and sometimes, they trick us. I don’t remember anymore the sequence of events. All most of us knew at the time is that there were photographs that indicated that people had been forced back into the Silver Dollar at gunpoint – then the projectile was fired. This contradicted what the Sheriff's Department had been claiming...that people had refused to leave the Silver Dollar. The photographs eventually made their way into a special issue of La Raza Magazine. One of the headlines was: “A mi hijo, lo asesinaron” – My son was murdered.”

That was what most of us thought. We were convinced. Of all the people that could have “accidentally” been killed – why was it the most high-profile Mexican American journalist in the history of this country? Given the other political assassinations of our time, how could we not believe that he too was taken out by governmental forces – in this case, the L.A. Sheriff’s Department?

The message sent out by the Inquest was “that it could happen here.” That is, not simply an assassination and a silencing, but a miscarriage of justice. The Inquest had been a kangaroo court for all to see. And there was nothing anyone could do about it. I could be wrong, but Salazar’s death along with the Inquest, did more to radicalize the movement than anything else, before or after. As it was, it was not just Salazar who was killed that day; Angel Diaz and Lyn Ward also died that day at the Moratorium. Again, no one faced charges for their deaths, nor for the death of other movement activists, before and after the moratorium.

Who could believe in justice or the “American Dream?” It didn’t apply to us. It never had, and it never would.

Some of the organizers from that era believe that what also died that day was the movement… that it had succumbed to the government’s war against the progressive movements of the nation. But I wasn’t one to believe that. I thought it was quite the reverse. Even though the Chicano Movement had been simmering throughout the nation’s barrios for several years, I believe Salazar’s death ignited an entire generation; it profoundly affected what American Indian scholar Vine Deloria would refer to as “the psychic life of a community.”

That’s why when my friends argued whether the rally and march was about the war or not, I had answered that it was actually about civil rights. For me, it was about fighting against dehumanization in a nation that had always treated Mexicans as less than human. That’s what the Chicano Movement was all about… about proclaiming our full humanity. I answered in that manner because I had already been exposed to the Chicano Movement by way of the walkouts and also because part of the movement included a consciousness about police abuse and brutality.

Prior to the Movement, Mexican Americans had tolerated their less than full human status, often living without their full human rights. The belief is that Mexicans, to a fault, in the face of discrimination, humiliation and denigration, were meek and humble. That’s what the movement had changed. And now, something huge had gone wrong. The person most responsible for bringing attention to the movement to peoples’ homes had been eliminated… and according to some, the movement itself had been killed.

At an organizational level, perhaps the Movement was killed...or perhaps, that’s when it began to disassemble. However, in relationship to the pyschic life of our community, this was the equivalence of a major and massive earthquake. It was the trigger that changed peoples’ lives. It changed how we thought. If the objective of killing Salazar was to destroy the movement, it had the opposite effect. To this day, the reverberations continue. Proof is “Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle.”

When we think back to Salazar, what has to be kept in mind is that he has now been dead longer than he was alive. That we are speaking of him today is proof that the reverberations continue.

Why after 44 years does the memory of his death matter? Why does memory of him and his work matter? What is the compelling and unfinished story? One reason is that his work remains relevant to this day and another reason is because to this day, many of us from that era have not been convinced that he wasn't assassinated.

Rodriguez, a life-long journalist/columnist, won the 1986 Journalist of the Year Award from the California Chicano News Media Association in 1986 for his defense of the First Amendment, stemming from an incident in which he photographed the brutal beating of a young Mexican man in 1979. Today, he is an assistant professor at the University of Arizona and was the recent winner of the American Educational Research Association’s Ella Baker-Septima Clark Human Rights Award for his defense of Ethnic Studies. He can be reached at: XColumn@gmail.com


Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

April 1, 2014
Salazar and Me
By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

Not by choice, I have always had a special connection to slain journalist, Ruben Salazar. The L.A. Times columnist and KMEX news director, was killed by an armor-piercing tear gas projectile by Los Angeles Sherriff’s deputies on Aug. 29, 1970 on Whittier Blvd in East Los Angeles… a few blocks down the street from where I grew up… also, on Whittier Blvd.

The connection, however, is not so much where I grew up – an alley off of Whittier Blvd – or even that I have been a journalist//columnist most of my adult life (since 1972) – but rather, that I was almost killed nine years later, by an elite unit of Sheriff’s officers in East LA, also on Whittier Blvd, just a few blocks from where Salazar was killed.

Salazar was killed while covering the National Moratorium against the Vietnam War. I was almost killed – my skull was cracked – for photographing a vicious assault against a young man, on Whittier Blvd., on the opening night of a movie about cruising in East L.A. On the day I was released from the jail ward of the LA County Hospital, I found out that it was I who was now facing charges… of attempting to kill the 4 deputies that almost took my life.

Those are not pleasant connections or memories. I have written plenty on what happened to me in a book titled: Justice: A Question of Race (1997) and in columns throughout the years.

As we near the premiere of Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle, I am compelled to write more about my own personal connection or about my own memories of Salazar. In part, it is because I, like many, see Salazar’s story as an unfinished story. I am one of those that has always believed he was assassinated, as opposed to simply being felled by an errant projectile.

When Salazar was killed, I was probably 20 blocks away, playing baseball in a parking lot off of Whittier Blvd. Salazar had been covering the march and rally against the war when Sherriff’s deputies and police attacked the peaceful rally at Laguna Park. After the attacks, the protestors scattered and a full-scale riot ensued, primarily on Whittier Blvd. Stores were looted and several were set on fire.

As I was playing baseball with my neighbors, I remember seeing the smoke rising from several fires that had been set. Most of us playing were probably between 13-16 years old. We knew what was going on regarding the protests, but we were not organizers. I remember we argued whether the rally was about the war, or about police brutality. I argued that of course it was about the war, but the real purpose was about civil rights and especially against police brutality.

At a certain point, we all went home. I lived behind or next to the parking lot… and of course, the situation regarding the riot was top of the news. Chanel 34 (KMEX), the station Salazar worked for broke into live coverage because word was that Salazar had been shot, sometime a little after 3pm. His colleague, Guillermo Restrepo, who had been inside the Silver Dollar Café was frantic, explaining that Salazar had been shot, that he was still inside and that the Sheriff’s deputies were not taking him to the hospital. Everyone had been evacuated from the Silver Dollar, except Salazar. The hours went by. I remember one my older brothers driving over to the Silver Dollar, with a few of us in tow, but being turned away on Atlantic. It was a no-go zone. We returned home. Finally, after about 3 hours, a little after 6:30 pm, the Sheriff’s deputies removed his body from the Silver Dollar.

A state of unreality permeated our communities. As a nation, we had lived through the Kennedy assassinations, the Martin Luther King assassination…and now, the only mainstream Journalist that had been covering the Chicano Movement had been felled by a nine-inch projectile.

Could it have been an accident? It would have been a miracle to have found more than a handful of people who that believed that.

Between Aug. 29, 1970 and Sept 16, 1970, East LA was in a state of siege. The tension was so thick that authorities wanted to cancel the annual Mexican Independence parade, fearing a massive riot. For those 16 days, the Eastside was tense, with saturation patrols everywhere. Sheriff’s deputies patrolled the Eastside, including the alley where I lived as if it were a war zone, as if it were a “third world country.” To this day, I remember being yelled at by deputies in my own alley in the back of my house: “Get back inside your yard!” I called it a house; it was actually a 2-room shack for 9 of us. We had little room, so the alley was part of our “yard.”

There was indeed another riot on Sept 16. And another one in January. More people were killed. Many were injured. Many were jailed.

I can see my mind drifting. I have lots of memories.

Perhaps the most profound one was that of being called by my parents to watch an interview of Salazar. I remember I was running out the door to play baseball, but before I could get out the gate, my parents called me back. I was late and I didn’t want to go back. But they told me it was important. For a 16-year-old athlete, nothing on TV could be important. Though I was an athlete, they knew I was very aware and involved in the Chicano Movement. The walkouts had happened two years before and anything having to do with civil rights and protest, I was interested. But not when I had a game. They sat me down and told me I needed to watch this interview. They explained who Salazar was. He was talking about “Chicano Power.!

“A ese lo van a matar,” they told me in Spanish. That one, they are going to kill.

Nowadays, I don’t remember if it was the week or month before Salazar was killed, but I do remember that indeed, it had a profound impact on me. Before I left, they gave me stern warnings about not getting involved with the Chicano Movement, because I too would get killed if I got active…

Shortly thereafter, I remember as the Salazar situation unfolded, my parents turned to me, telling me and reminding me that that was the same journalist they had told me that he was going to get killed… that they had me watch… Of course, they could not stop telling me: “Te dijimos” – we told you.

I of course was shocked as much as the next person. I truly feel that that was one of the most important moments of my life. But rather than discourage me from being or becoming part of the Chicano Movement, it became a magnet. More than that, it is what determined my future, my decision to go to college and the decision to become a journalist, a writer… a columnist. I wasn’t sure which… all I know is I had to write. I had to write about the truth. The Sherriff of L.A., Peter Pitchess, claimed that the rally had drawn in outside agitators, that they were responsible for all the troubles. It was a line that would be repeated often throughout the duration of the movement; it was “communist infiltrators” or “communist troublemakers.” If people protested, the protest was illegitimate because it was outside agitators that were stirring the pot.

No, we didn’t need anyone from the outside to tell us that there was something wrong with the East Side of LA… or the Southside. The black and brown sides of L.A. were not the West Side… were not Beverly Hills or Bel Air.

Beyond Aug 29, 1970, it was the subsequent Inquest into Salazar’s death that cemented the discontent in our community that exists to this day. 16 days of testimony resulted in a finding that Salazar had died “at the hands of another.” Four jurists decided this way. Three decided it was an accident. Despite this majority finding, no one was ever charged with his death.

I don’t think many of us expected any different. Salazar was mainstream, but a Mexican nonetheless… and the judicial system had treated him simply as but “another Mexican.”

Rodriguez, a life-long journalist/columnist, won the 1986 Journalist of the Year Award from the California Chicano News Media Association in 1986 for his defense of the First Amendment, stemming from an incident in which he photographed the brutal beating of a young Mexican man in 1979. Today, he is an assistant professor at the University of Arizona and was the recent winner of the American Educational Research Association’s Ella Baker-Septima Clark Human Rights Award for his defense of Ethnic Studies. He can be reached at: XColumn@gmail.com